By Pilger, John
New Statesman (1996) , Vol. 140, No. 5074
The high court in London will soon decide whether Julian Assange is to be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct. At the appeal hearing in July, Ben Emmer-son QC, counsel for the defence, described the whole saga as "crazy". Sweden's chief prosecutor had dismissed the original arrest warrant, saying there was no case for Assange to answer. Both women involved said they had consented to have sex. On the facts alleged, no crime would have been committed in Britain.
However, itis not the Swedish judicial system that presents a "grave danger" to Assange, say his lawyers, but a legal device known as a temporary surrender, under which he can be sent on from Sweden to the United States secretly and quickly. The founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, who published the greatest leak of official documents in history, providing a unique insight into rapacious wars and the lies told by governments, is likely to find himself in a hell hole not dissimilar to the "torturous" dungeon that held Private Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower. Manning has not been tried, let alone convicted, yet on 21 April President Barack Obama declared him guilty with a dismissive "Hebroke the law".
This Kafka-style justice awaits Assange whether or not Sweden decides to prosecute him. Last December, the Independent disclosed that the US and Sweden had already started talks on his extradition. At the same time, a secret grand jury--a relic of the 18th century long abandoned in this country--has convened just across the river from Washington, in a corner of Virginia that is home to the CIA and most of America's national security establishment. The grand jury is a "fix", a leading legal expert told me: reminiscent of the all-white juries in the South that convicted black people by rote. A sealed indictment is believed to exist.
Under the US constitution, which guarantees free speech, Assange should be protected, in theory. When he was running for president, Obama said that "whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal". His embrace of George W Bush's "war on terror" has changed all that. Obama has pursued more whistleblowers than any of his predecessors. The problem for his administration in "getting" Assange is that military investigators have found no collusion or contact between him and Manning. There is no crime, so one has to be concocted, probably in line with Vice-President Joe Biden's absurd description of Assange as a "hi-tech terrorist".
Petty and perfidious
Should Assange win his high court appeal, he could face extradition directly to the US. In the past, US officials have synchronised extradition warrants with the conclusion of a pending case. Like their predatory military, US jurisdiction recognises few boundaries. As Manning's suffering demonstrates, together with the recently executed Troy Davis and the forgotten inmates of Guantanamo, much of the US criminal justice system is corrupt.
In a letter addressed to the Australian government, Britain's most distinguished human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, who now acts for Assange, wrote:
Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions ... it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and ... his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.
These facts, and the prospect of a grotesque miscarriage of justice, have been drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. Deeply personal, petty, perfidious and inhuman attacks have been aimed at a man not charged with any crime, yet held isolated and under house arrest--conditions not even meted out to a defendant who is facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. …